Jeff's Struggle, God's Victory!

While away on business travel I received an email from my wife without any subject line or any message text.  It simply contained a single picture of two red-headed children and their names.  I barely gave them a glance and immediately deleted the message.  Here we go again I thought.

A few months earlier Amy and the kids were building momentum on the idea of adopting a child from China.  Wanting to be a spiritually minded father and appear (at least on the outside) to be considering the proposition, I told them that I would pray about it and assured them that if God were to tell me to move forward on it, that I would obediently follow His leading.  I had no intention of really praying about it though, and I honestly didn’t think He might tell me one way or the other in any clear and tangible way what I should do - so I figured the decision was mine.  I naturally didn’t want to, so I quickly dismissed the idea.  Having appeased the kids, the subject slipped away into the normal routines of our daily lives.  Now this picture shows up in my inbox and I knew that something was brewing back at home, and I didn’t like it.

Amy explained that evening on the phone how she had come across these two little girls and was feeling led to adopt them and wanted me to begin thinking about this again.  I thought, “How can you be so certain of something like this?  Don’t we have enough on our plates?  Enough to do with the family God has already given us?”  I reiterated a bit more emphatically that I didn’t think I wanted to go down this road, but would at least consider it again (really having no intentions of doing so) - especially after finding out that one of them is HIV+.

I spent the next couple of days chewing on the decision.  It was a burdening thought that filled me with anxiety, fear, and sorrow.  I thought about all the reasons that God wouldn’t possibly ask me to adopt 2 more children into our family.  After all, we have 7 already and one on the way, due in six months.  What about our existing children?  Can we really focus on them enough as it is?  Intentional, one-on-one relationship building is already so hard to do consistently.  Our kids do get a lot of our time, but most of it is shared between multiple children and the rest of it is spent in simply keeping a household of this size clean and running as smoothly as we can manage.  How would we ever have time to devote more of ourselves to 2 needy kids, and in doing so aren't we going to neglect the ones we have?  Surely God wouldn’t ask us to do this on those reasons alone.  Then of course there is the fact that people have to be fed and clothed and educated.  This will be even more expensive than it already is.  And what about the medical expenses associated with caring for the HIV+ situation, how can I afford that? (For that matter how can I afford the initial adoption costs at all?  It’s not like I have 30K laying around).  Not only would it take money and attention from us, it would take time and disrupt the comfortable life we were living together (a life that is going swimmingly well).  I was angry at Amy (and at God) for making me think about a decision like this.  It was a burdensome thought, and I didn’t want to even think about it really, much less act on it.  I made up my mind while away on business, God was not calling me to pursue an adoption.  I knew Amy would be disappointed, but she would move on and let it go, and I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore.  I let her know this was my take on it when I got home.

Despite my objections and reservations, Amy had already begun a research project on HIV patients and care options.  A book was delivered on the subject and she dove right in.  She would share her findings and I would give a cursory listen, not really being very interested in any of it.  Just her reading up on HIV made me a little angry – hadn’t she heard my response?  I didn’t want to go forward with this.

In the back of my mind though, God kept prodding me with a sense of duty to seriously look at the decision at hand.  I couldn’t really let the issue go, I kept wondering if I was being selfish and unwilling to listen to God's voice due to what it might cost me, what kind of changes it might mean for my life.  I really wasn’t up for change, I liked my life the way it was.  As I wrestled with God in my heart, I attempted to assure Amy that I would be willing to listen to God’s voice and act accordingly if I knew for certain what He wanted of me.  I was still thinking that I didn’t want to do this, but that I would go through the motions of humble contemplation.  I really didn’t know how in the world I was supposed to figure out God's will on this though.

Then the hosting ministry’s website suddenly took the girls' picture down.  Amy called in to ask about them and was told that they had been taken down because of other people calling in to ask questions, but that a couple serious about the adoption was already beginning the initial processes.  Amy was disappointed again, but glad that they would be taken care of.  I was relieved that this was the case, it was God's answer to the situation and it didn’t require anything of me.  Amy desired to give monetarily to the couple that would be pursing adoption and so called back to find out who they were and how she could make a donation.  Upon asking, the woman exclaimed "Well, it’s you dear!"  Amy was astonished to find this out and felt all the more called by God to take care of these orphans.  Amy told me of this discovery the next morning when we woke up.  I was immediately very angry and told her that I did not want to do it, end of story.  We didn’t speak for a couple of hours.  My mind was racing with why God was doing this to me and what He expected of me and how I should respond.

I am now thankful to my wife for her loving honesty (admittedly at the time I was not).  She reminded me of my mindset toward orphans and the poor when we first got married.  I would jump at the opportunity to give to others and make sacrifices of myself for others.  She pointed out that we both had changed though, that we were living a comfortable life that focused on ourselves and our own family with little compassion for others in need around us.  She made the point that we can easily decide to drop thousands of dollars redecorating a room in our house and purchasing an RV for our own comfort but squirm at the thought of sacrificing that money or comfort for the benefit of someone else.  My mind raced with excuses and reasons why this wasn’t true (even though I knew it was).  I told her to proceed with the Home Study application and that we would see where it goes from there.

I was still at war in my heart over the issue though, this time willing to look in the mirror and allow God to show me what He saw (however painful it might be).  When I considered the decision at hand, it really was a very simple one.  God's Word is clear that we are to take care of the orphans, widows, and poor.  We are to be a father to the fatherless.  We are to defend those who cannot defend themselves.  If the right choice was so obvious, why was I struggling so hard against it?  Why was it so hard to do it?  God showed me that it was my own selfishness that was in the way, specifically it was the issue of king-ship that was in the way.  Whose life was I living? One in service to me and what I want, or one in service to Him and what He wants?  He wants me to be conformed to His image through the process of sanctification, and He cares for these orphans.  He wants me to die to myself so that I can experience the abundant life of joy that can only be found in serving Him.  But there was no joy in this decision, at least not at first....not until I decided (by His grace and mercy) to die.  But in death we are told there is tremendous gain.  The initial benefit of this death was indescribable peace and resolve.  God granted me the strength to die, and in doing so awakened the freedom of have true life in following Him.  The purpose of my life changed during that wrestling match with the Lord, and I was free to be a slave of Christ.  He reminded me that I was a child of the enemy when He adopted me, that I am still dealing with the painful effects of a deadly disease called sin, that He loved and cared for me anyway, and that it cost Him his life to rescue me.  He reminded me that I am supposed to emulate Him as an ambassador of Christ to the world around me.  He has made me His child by immeasurable grace and is calling me to do the same for these two girls.

This is how my mind was so radically changed from decisive resistance to obedient and joyful surrender.  Yes it will be hard, and will require much more than I think I have to give.  I can trust that He will equip us to do His will and cause us great success as we surrender our lives daily to His will and purposes.

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